Some local teachers are reporting that they have already begun to receive their first doses of COVID-19 vaccines, after the recent announcement San Mateo County would begin to allow teachers and other frontline workers to be vaccinated starting Monday.
The county's Office of Education said Thursday that it plans to host two vaccination days for educators at the San Mateo County Event Center within the next two weeks. The county's health department will reach out to those who qualify with an invitation to make an appointment, said Patricia Love, executive director of strategy and communications for the office, in a Thursday email.
Those who qualify for vaccines at these events are for the highest priority groups: school staff who are working in person and serving students with some of the greatest needs, including students from households with limited financial resources, those learning English, and those in the foster youth program. County Superintendent Nancy Magee also noted in a newsletter today, Feb. 19, that the county will be holding vaccination clinics over the coming weeks for teachers.
"Getting school staff vaccinated is critical to getting students back on campus and to mitigating additional long-term impacts of interrupted education on our young people," she said. "Far too many of our students are not fully engaged or supported in their learning and are disconnected from their school community, teachers, and peers. We must do all we can to ensure our students receive the critical social and emotional supports and academic engagement that in-person interaction provides."
The county anticipates it will take about six to eight weeks to vaccinate its education workforce, Magee noted.
Last week, a coalition of Midpeninsula teachers shared with The Almanac a letter they wrote to the county — urging it to begin vaccinations of educators who were teaching in-person — after Portola Valley district union members began to talk about striking if they aren't vaccinated soon.
San Mateo County Health will be working off priority lists created by schools and districts and shared with the Office of Education.
Like other Bay Area counties, San Mateo County officials say they are constrained by the limited vaccine supply. Anyone in group 1B can sign up for a vaccine appointment at the Oakland Coliseum, the federal government's mass vaccination site, Love said.
A cursory check on Friday afternoon for making a vaccination appointment at the Oakland Coliseum showed there were no appointments available at this time. John Davenport, president of the Portola Valley Teachers Association, said in a Feb. 19 email that securing a vaccine appointment can take some persistence, but that most of his union members have already signed up at either the Oakland site (San Mateo residents) or Levi's Stadium (for Santa Clara residents after Feb. 28).
Several of Las Lomitas Elementary School District teachers who live in the county and East Bay were able to sign up for appointments at the Oakland Coliseum this week and have received their first shots, said Heather Peterson, Las Lomitas Education Association co-president and a third grade teacher at Las Lomitas Elementary School, in a Feb. 19 email.
"Teachers are feeling extremely grateful and relieved to be getting vaccinated," she said.
San Mateo County announced Feb. 11 that it would expand COVID-19 vaccinations beginning Feb. 22 to teachers and child care providers, first responders, and food and agricultural workers who are eligible under the state's Phase 1B, as supply allows. There are an estimated 5,000 teachers countywide, according to state Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park.
Office of Education officials also said they are working with Kaiser San Mateo, Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation and the county health department in the weeks ahead to address the vaccination needs for our education community.